The Story of Democracy

Frederick Nietzsche’s Critique of Democracy
Frederick Nietzsche explained how the English contributed to the spread of democracy:

“Worst of all are the English; it is they who corrupted the French mind with a democratic delusion. Shopkeepers, Christians, cows, women, Englishmen, and other Democrats belong together. English utilitarianism and philistinism are the nadir of European culture. Only in a land of cutthroat competition could anyone conceive of life as a struggle for mere existence. Only in a land where shopkeepers outnumber the aristocracy could democracy be fabricated. This is the Greek gift that England has given to the modern world. Who will rescue Europe from England and England from democracy?” (Story of Philosophy).
Nietzsche argued that democracy signifies a drift, a permission given to each part of an organism to do just what it pleases. It means the worship of mediocrity and hatred of excellence. How could great men submit to the indignities and indecencies of an election? What chance would they have, and how can a nation become great when its greatest men lie unused, discouraged, perhaps unknown? Such a society loses character.
Imitation becomes horizontal instead of vertical. Not the superior man but the majority man becomes the ideal and the model. Everybody comes to resemble everybody else; even sexes approximate—the men become women and the women become men (Story of Philosophy).
Plato’s Vision of Democracy
Plato stated, “Without any hypocrisy of voting, democracy means perfect equality of opportunity, especially in education, not the rotation of every Tom, Dick, and Harry in public office. Every man shall have an equal chance to make himself fit for the complex task of administration. Only those who have proved their mettle and emerged from all tests with insignia of skill shall be eligible to rule. Public officials shall be chosen not by votes nor by secret cliques pulling the unseen wires of democratic pretense but by their own ability as demonstrated in the fundamental democracy and equal race. No man shall hold office without specific training nor hold high office till he first fills lower offices well” (Story of Philosophy).
Plato continued, “Only a philosopher-king is fit to guide a nation until philosopher-kings or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy. Wisdom and political leadership must meet in the same man for the city and the human race to be free from ill” (Story of Philosophy).
Socrates’ View on Governance
Socrates, Plato’s teacher, asked, “Is it not a base superstition that mere numbers will give wisdom? On the contrary, is it not universally seen that men in crowds are more foolish, more violent, and more cruel than men separate and alone? Is it not shameful that men should be ruled by orators who go on ringing on and on long harangues, like brazen pots, which, once struck, continue to sound till a hand is put upon them? How can a society be saved or be strong, except it be led by its wisest men?” (Story of Philosophy).
Mahabharata and Governance
The Anushashana Parva of the Mahabharata spends considerable time describing governance. One of the most important pieces of advice Bhisma gives to King Yudhishthira is about the cabinet. It should consist of a proper ratio of different psychologies.
The cabinet should include ministers who fight ignorance, those who counter intrusion, the wise who address insufficiency, and those who combat indolence. The king or prime minister who takes decisions on his own will succumb to failure.
Ravana on Leadership
Ravana described the process of ruling, emphasizing that victory comes from good advice and counsel. He categorized people into three types:
1. The first class comprises those who have friends capable of good advice, relatives who are equal participants in happiness and distress, who listen to great men of wisdom, and fully take shelter in divine guidance.
2. The second class consists of those who decide on their own, tread the path of dharma alone, and do everything independently.
3. The third class includes those who, without understanding the pros and cons of decisions, decide on their own with an egoistic mindset and abandon their work midway.
Ravana continued, explaining three types of advice:
1. The best advice comes from integrated ministers with wisdom from Shastra.
2. Second-grade advice comes where there is conflict among counselors, but they eventually integrate their advice.
3. Third-grade advice comes from advisors who compete with each other, trying to supersede others, making their advice useless.
Ravana himself, though superficially seeking advice, followed his own mind, rejecting his greatest advisor, Vibhishana, and ultimately failed.
Modern Political Lessons
In recent elections, the BJP, especially Prime Minister Modi, experienced a reversal. It is time to move out of the mode of superhuman and act like a human, as Sri Rama did. Even though supreme, Ishwar SriRama acted as a human, seeking the advice of his ministers.
The Prime Minister’s tireless and sincere work is praiseworthy, selflessly serving the nation. However, dedication is not synonymous with always making the right decision. Great leaders like Bhishma were dedicated but made wrong decisions, unfriendly to the Pandavas, consciously or unconsciously.
The Hindu community voted less in the recent election but previously gave a thumping majority to the BJP, especially Modi. No leader is indispensable. Leadership thrives with the support of a great cabinet and advisers. This is a sobering lesson to recognize one’s vulnerability and the need for a strong team of leaders for dharmic governance, ensuring a legacy of good people instead of cult leaders worshipped by frenzied crowds.
Good rule is more important than the ruler; governance is more important than the governor. More than the prime minister, the principles of ministership are paramount. Ultimately, Dharma must prevail, meaning integral governance.
The Mahabharata mentions that at one point, there were no kings, governors, or kingdoms because everyone practiced Svadharma. Chanakya Pandit explained that the king should never be more powerful than the kingdom or the subjects. The greatness of a kingdom lies not in the king but in the empowered citizens.
Jai Bharata.
May the new government work tirelessly but being more human than heroes empowering and creating legacy of leadership and self rule.
 – Govinda Das